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Current innovations in car buying experiences: what’s happening now?

Positive, enjoyable retail experiences have become a high priority for customers’, and car buying is certainly no exception to that. For so many people, buying a car is no longer just about paying for a vehicle: they want to feel respected, valued and heard by the people they deal with and build a solid, trusted relationship.

A big part of the retail experience is the ability to conduct certain parts of the customer journey online, as part of an omni-channel model that combines virtual and in-person touchpoints. Our recent report on Uniting Retailers and Customers emphasised that this omni-channel set-up is increasingly favoured by car buyers, providing customers with a choice of both online and face-to-face engagements. This trend is only likely to become even stronger in the months and years ahead, and retailers should take advantage of this opportunity to create individual customer moments.

In this blog, we’ll highlight three ways in which we predict the car buying experience will continue to evolve in the near future, and what you can do with your internal processes to respond and meet changing consumer expectations.

Build on customer-centricity

The ‘State of the Connected Customer’ report released by Salesforce, found that 88% of consumers feel the experience a retailer provides is of equal importance to the goods or services being purchased. But in order to meet these customer expectations – which are in sharp focus given the economic challenges currently facing many – it’s vital to understand exactly what they’re looking for.

We’ve conducted our own research into car buyers’ priorities, and found that 42% value good customer service above anything else, followed by fair pricing that removes any awkward haggling or negotiation, and a general ease of doing business. Fulfilling these expectations, however, doesn’t have to be complicated: going back to basics and ensuring the simple stuff is done right every time can put you on course for success. This means:

  • Accurately logging and actioning every lead within a central hub such as Dealerweb Showroom, enabling smooth management throughout the customer journey
  • Following up in a timely manner, using the same method of communication that the customer used (two-thirds of customers expect this)
  • Enhancing your response to initial enquiries by creating a personalised video in CitNOW Sales
  • Upskilling staff on video creation and presentation skills to maximise the value of visual – our research found that 360-degree exterior videos, regular exterior videos and hi-res interior imagery, using tools such as Auto Imaging, are especially appreciated by customers
Excited woman sat in car holding the steering wheel
Enhance the omni-channel journey

The popularity of dealership websites for customers researching prospective purchases has boomed: 62% of customers cited it as their most popular channel in 2022, up from just 22% the previous year. This means that it’s never been more important to ensure that the imagery and content on your site is the highest-quality possible, and to use simple technology like Auto Imaging to transform your digital forecourt and speed to market.

However, online isn’t the be-all and end-all of car sales. Capital One has found that only 6% of customers want an online-only experience, meaning that a mix of in-person and virtual touch points represents the best way forward. CitNOW Sales can make a real difference here, as through personalised video, sales staff can build trusted relationships with customers before they visit the showroom, and lay the foundations of a positive outcome when the customer visits the dealership.

This is only one of the areas where online touchpoints can complement the customer journey. For example, you can use finance tools like iVendi, which allows finance operations to be launched directly from dealer pages, and part exchange valuation platforms like Tootle that ease the process of arranging a trade-in. Both of these tools integrate with CitNOW Sales, which makes it even simpler for sales staff to manage omni-channel customer experiences.

Push aftersales

The agency model is likely to change the state of play substantially in years to come. With car buyers able to order directly from the OEM through an online portal, retailers may have to deal with fixed prices and adapt elements of their business processes to meet this new sales approach.

In turn, this will heighten the importance of aftersales in driving additional revenue, so now is the time to put the mechanisms in place to maximise opportunities in this area. Given how valuable aftersales can be, it’s remarkable that 30% of dealerships still don’t introduce their aftersales team to customers at the point of vehicle handover. Placing the thought of aftersales in a customer’s mind at the time when they’re most excited and satisfied (as they’re receiving their car) can generate substantial returns.

Video also has a key role to play in building customer confidence in the workshop: videos developed in CitNOW Workshop mean customers can clearly see, hear about and understand any problems with their car, making it more likely that they will approve any work required. Our research has found that 41% of customers are more willing to approve repair work if they can see a video of what’s required beforehand.

In summary

There are many different changes afoot in the world of automotive retail, some of which will have a bigger impact on retailers than others. What is clear, however, is that technology will play a major part in helping retailers respond. More importantly, those who can use it to create faster, easier and more personalised customer experiences will be the best-placed for future success and long-term profitability.

Take a closer look at how CitNOW can help you maximise conversion rates and provide stand-out customer experiences here.